AFRICA/CAMEROON – Peace talks between government and separatists in the bishop’s residence: the Church promotes dialogue and reconciliation
Bamenda (Agenzia Fides) – Hopes for peace in Cameroon are rekindled. In the first week of July, meetings were held between official representatives of the government and separatists from the English-speaking regions of Cameroon, who reopened the prospects for a cessation of hostilities, which was not achieved even during the lockdown for the pandemic. Reached by Agenzia Fides, Archbishop Andrew Nkea of Bamenda, capital of the English-speaking regions, comments the important event: “I have direct confirmations from people present that the meeting took place in a very relaxed atmosphere and that the talks were frank and clear. Julius Ayuk Tabe, leader of Ambazonia, was taken from his cell (in a maximum security prison in Yaoundè where he has been imprisoned since December 2018) just to be able to participate in the meeting. There are three conditions to guarantee a ceasefire: that the military leave the English-speaking regions and hand over security control to the police; that all prisoners associated with the English-speaking question are freed; and an amnesty is proclaimed for all the separatists in exile. I think the government is seriously considering the proposals also because it has realized that only with the use of force the problem will never be resolved”.
Ambazonia is the region that takes its name from Ambas Bay, the bay of the Mungo river which in colonial times marked the border between French and English Cameroon. In 2017 it self-proclaimed itself an independent republic and since then there have been very serious clashes that have caused over 3,000 deaths and hundreds of thousands of refugees.
The Archbishop continued: “Obviously they cannot give a precise timetable, but the separatists have said they are ready at any moment and will await a sign from the government. One of those responsible for national security was representing the government, but behind him is Prime Minister Joseph Ngute. “The meeting was held at the residence of the Archbishop of Yaoundé, Jean Mbarga, testifying to the historically active role of the Church in the search for reconciliation and peace. “The Church is not a leading actress but works constantly behind the scenes. For a long time we have been operating, at every level, to foster dialogue, taking advantage of the fact that both sides have deep respect for us. They believe in our ‘interested neutrality’ and think that we are perhaps the only interlocutor who can bring the country to stable peace. Even if the representatives of the Church do not sit at the negotiating table, we continue in every way to encourage dialogue and the search for a negotiating path that will definitively replace weapons”. (LA) (Agenzia Fides, 20/7/2020)
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